Health & Spirit

The Pain of Psoriasis

Scott LaFee on

Psoriasis is a painful, persistent, puzzling skin condition. It typically occurs on knees, elbows and scalp, but can appear almost anywhere. There are a variety of causal factors: stress, bacterial infections, immune system dysfunction, genetics. It's complicated to treat -- the most frequent therapy are topical steroids, but they can have serious side effects -- and it can become a chronic condition.

Researchers at Emory University are investigating a potential new remedy: fire ant venom. In mouse tests, the venom reduced skin thickening and inflammation. The reason seems to be the presence of solenopsins -- the main toxin in the venom. Solenopsins are chemically similar to ceramides, which are lipid-like molecules essential to maintaining the barrier function of skin.

But under certain circumstances, ceramides breakdown into inflammatory molecules. Solenopsins don't, and when applied to mice, they prevented inflammatory cells from infiltrating the skin and causing psoriasis.

Water Weight

Adding or removing water from a stem cell can direct it toward becoming either bone or fat, say researchers at the University of Buffalo. Scientists have long known that stem cells pick up cues about their eventual fate based upon cells around them, but these results indicate nature also plays a role.

Altering the liquid volume of a stem cell changes its internal dynamics. Removing water, the researchers said, condenses the cell and influences it to become stiff pre-bone cells. Adding water causes the cells to swell and form soft pre-fat cells.

Aside from its value to understanding the basic biology of stem cells, the findings may be useful in further developing regenerative medical treatments in which stem cells become replacement cells.

Body of Knowledge

The average speed of human sperm is 8 inches per hour.

Get Me That, Stat!

Cases of sexually transmitted disease, specifically chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, have hit an all-time national high. A new CDC report says there were 2 million STD cases in 2016, mostly chlamydia. Chlamydia struck women hardest; the majority of syphilis cases were men.

Number Cruncher

A three-ounce serving of braised beef pancreas (85 grams -- yum!) contains 230 calories, 132 from fat. It has 14.6 grams of total fat or 22 percent of the recommended total fat intake for a 2,000-calorie daily diet.

It also contains 223 milligrams of cholesterol (74 percent); 51 mg of sodium (2 percent); zero grams of total carbohydrates; zero grams of sugar and 23 g of protein.


55.7: Estimated number of abortions, in millions, performed annually around the world

25: Estimated number of abortions deemed unsafe, the vast majority occurring in developing nations

Sources: WHO and Guttmacher Institute

Never Say Diet

The Major League Eating record for shrimp wonton is 390 in 8 minutes, held by Joey Chestnut. At a reported 230 pounds, Chestnut is no shrimp and in this food-eating contest, he did not go wantin'.

Doc Talk

Angina pectoris - A severe, acute attack of cardiac pain

Phobia of the week

Placophobia: fear of tombstones

Best Medicine

Q: Why are hospital gowns like health insurance?

A: You're never as covered as much as you think you are.


"After you find out all the things that can go wrong, your life becomes less about living and more about waiting."

--American author Chuck Palahniuk in his 2001 novel, "Choke"

Medical History

This week in 1987, Paul Holc became the youngest person in the world known to have an organ transplant of any kind when he received a new heart at just three hours old. The heart transplant was performed by surgeons at Loma Linda University Medical Center. Holc suffered from hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a fatal heart defect in which the heart's left chamber is missing or atrophied. He was delivered early by Caesarian section because a donor heart became available from a brain-dead baby in Canada.

Med School

Q: Can you identify these body parts: uvula, axilla, philtrum and nares.

A: They are, respectively: the fleshy pink tissue hanging from the roof of your mouth, which prevents food and liquid from passing into your nasal cavity; your armpit; the skin indentation between your nose and upper lip; and the two openings of your nose.


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